Blood on the Deck

July 5, 2011

Today we got a call from our fishing partner the Shodan.  They were at the North Line with their gear caught in their prop and drifting into the shore break.

I reckon this bears a little bit of explaining.  With the fishing gear caught in the prop, it means that the prop can’t turn without destroying the transmission of the boat.  The propellor serves the dual purpose of making the boat go forward as well as creating steerage as the action of the water flowing past the rudder is what turns the boat in either direction.  So, with web in their wheel the Shodan was powerless to get out of the shore break where they would be potentially pounded to bits.  So we figured we’d finish the period early, go find them and give them a hand.

Having web in the wheel, one can either be towed in to where they can run dry and safely cut the web out from the ground.  It’s safe but it requires a big favor from a friend (to miss fishing in order to tow you to shore).  To avoid this many boats are equipped with a clearing port in their hull above their prop.  This is pretty much a hole in the hull of the boat where one can reach down to the propellor shaft and blindly cut out the web by feel.  It’s a tricky and very web maneuver because mind numbingly cold water is pouring into the engine room as you’ve got your arm jammed down the hole trying to feel the net and cut it out.  We’ve always cleared by option B but the Shodan has opted for the safer option A.

We create a bridal with our own tow-line and then begin to tow them to the river mouth where they can tie up to the tender, deliver, and then run dry up the river so they can work on their prop.  It’s a good hour and half to two hours to run to the tender – a run that can be shortened when there is enough water flowing over a shoal that runs about a mile off shore.  The weather is snarling and their are breakers in this cut, but we decide to take the risk of running dry in hopes of gaining a few hours of precious sleep.

We end up running dry.  Suddenly they’re emergency just became our emergency as we’re running dry  in heavy onshore winds and the Shodan is dangling off of our stern.  We both drop our anchors and we cut them loose as we wait for the flood to bring in enough water to get back to towing them to the tender.

The heavy onshores are blowing up some breakers and we there’s a tremendous amount of pressure being placed on our anchor cable.  Consistent with our day, it snaps!  Although distressing, we actually have enough water to put the boat in gear and jog alongside the Shodan as we wait for the flood to fill in.

To make a long story short, we end up spending a long night helping a friend in distress dodging a few bullets of our own.

When we get to the tender, there’s a considerable amount of commotion as disaster struck during one of the earlier deliveries.  When we offload, we are using a crane to lift a couple thousands of pounds of fish from one boat to another.  The boats are tied together but are, at times, rolling independently of each other.  So there can be slack developing and then pulling tight in the set up as the boats roll.  An unlucky deckhand had his finger slip into the slack between the hook  and the metal eyelet of the brailer bag and his finger was flayed to the point of being nearly torn off.  Pulling bags is a maneuver we perform ten times a day everyday.  Things can go wrong quickly.

As we tow the Shodan from the tender to the shore, news is passed along the radio of another accident that occurred today.  A boat in a similar situation as the Shodan was attempting to cut the web out through the clearing port.  Through some horror of miscommunication, the transmission had been engaged while the deckhand was trying to clear the web off of the shaft and the deckhand had his arm badly broken as the shaft turned with his hand wrapped around it.

Fuck.  This accident is both horrifying and disgusting in how easily it could have been avoided by clear communication.  I can only imagine the pain and regret.

Having dropped the Shodan off after a long ordeal, we try to shake off the day’s horrible images so as to not have  then taint our precious two hours of sleep allotted before we shake out the cobwebs and head back out to the fishing grounds.

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